Saturday, September 11, 2010

Castello Valdajer - Forcella Duron

The clouds have all blown away and beautiful September weather has returned- breezy, cool and sunny. To celebrate, I drove up north of Tolmezzo to Cedarchis (400m). It was quite chilly in the morning, so I started out wearing Castelli legwarmers with bibshorts, and a Craft long sleeve undershirt beneath my short sleeve jersey. Felt great at first, but after 10 km I arrived in Paluzza, and the slight upgrade had made me very hot. So I peeled it all off and stuffed it in jersey pockets.

Halfway between Cedarchis and Paluzza at Arta Terme I noticed a bunch of vans, cars, etc from various cycling teams. Several AG2R La Mondiale riders were waiting by their van. Turns out the Giro del Friuli under-23 race started in Arta Terme today.  Later I read of tragedy in the race- this guy was only 19 years old-

From Paluzza I turned east and the grade steepened. After Treppo Carnico, the real climbing began. There are 11 tornanti in a row on the climb up to Ligosullo, averaging 9.5% with some stretches of 13%. This takes you up 360 meters in 4 km.

Then you reach an osteria with a nice wooden porch where people eat outside and enjoy the view. Here you turn left and head up the climb to Castello Valdajer. It is a nice shady road surrounded by tall fir trees. It climbs steadily at 10-12% for a couple of kilometers, eases up a bit and ends at the castello (1340m), a yellowish-brown large mansion maybe a couple hundred years old. It looked like an old 3-4 floor hotel you'd see in a northern Italian city, but transplanted to the middle of nowhere.

I saw a small paved road to the right that said Casera Culet. It was very steep, with pavement ending at 1500 meters. I continued on the dirt road briefly, with beautiful views toward Austria. Best part was an eagle (with white flashes on outboard underside of wings) hovering in the wind looking for prey. I've seen small kites do this quite often, but never such a large bird.

If you travel this little road, be careful of concrete drainage channels frequently crossing the pavement- they chopped off the rebar and left sharp ends protruding every which way. That would definitely take out a tire, if not a rim. I braked to a near-standstill at each one and carefully rolled across.

I returned to the castello, saw another paved road to Casera Valdajer and headed up. Very pretty road with waterfalls, tall firs, big mushrooms, and great views toward the west. The pavement ended but I continued for a couple of kilometers on the dirt road at 9-10%, till I wore out at 1540 meters.

I was very cold on the descent with the shade, wind etc but decided to bear it because there was more climbing to Forcella Duron and the undershirt is too much trouble. Next time, take armwarmers.

The ride from the osteria to Forcella Duron is lovely rolling terrain alternating between meadows and fir forest. At the forcella (1076m) the road becomes an awesome descent, freshly paved for this year's Giro stage. Really a blast. After Paularo the road hugs the side of a beautiful gorge, tempting you to take your eyes off the fast descent, all the way down to Cedarchis.

Pretty steeple in Paluzza

Monte Zoncolan, left, above Paluzza and Sutrio

Mushroom the size of a dinner plate 

Waterfall along road to Casera Valdajer

The gradient

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